Vesa Juhani Alakulppi

Army of the United States
23 April 1941 - 14 May 1968
Seattle, Washington
Panel 60E Line 007


Silver Star

Combat Infantry

Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Campaign, Vietnam Service

Army Parachutist

The database page for Vesa Juhani Alakulppi

Captain Vesa Juhani Alakulppi
Killed In Action
In Vietnam May 14, 1968

Vesa Alakulppi

"He was truly a very special human being to all the people he touched in his life. He was a wonderful, loving, and intelligent man who was very deeply committed to his family and friends, and he took seriously his obligation to his profession, to God, and to his family."

Sharon Alakulppi

Back in 1964 I was no more than a Private (E-2) when I met the then 2nd Lieutenant Alakulppi. He had that air of respectability and since he was an Officer, we didn't socialize. My position was that of a subordinate and that was the way it was. I do recall that he would always have a comment to encourage us to do our best and be ready for what ever came our way.

It's hard for me to accept his loss because he was a bright and an intelligent man with strong convictions and a deep regard to Duty, Honor, and Country.

God Bless

A memorial initiated by
John Strgar
A member of his Platoon in 1964  
15 Jun 2001

"Lest We Forget"

Today is the 13th of May 2003 and I am giving thought to my past when I was in the Army. So many years ago, so many memories, I still can vividly recall the first time I was introduced to you by our Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. Atherton. He said, “Lt Alakulppi, this is Private Strgar and he is assigned to our Mortar Platoon.” The Lieutenant looked and me and gave me some brief words of encouragement and dismissed me. From time to time, I was yelled at, cussed at, and no doubt the topic of several discussions. I wasn’t the only one, we all were. The consolation is that it was done in the spirit of making soldiers out of us.

As time went on, I remember when you got your First Lieutenant’s Silver Bar and were transferred to Company “A” as a Tank Platoon Leader. Later you were promoted to Captain and became the Company Commander, an example to follow.

I remained with the Mortar Platoon and when my enlistment was up rotated back to the states in August 1966.

When I attended the basic airborne course with the reserves in May /June 1968 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, I would think of your example of perseverance and graduated after the mandatory 3 weeks of hard work. Little did I know that you were already killed in action in Vietnam at that time.

I will never forget you and how you made a soldier out of me. I would often think of and wondered how you were doing, hoping that one-day I could contact you and ask if you still remembered the skinny kid with the funny last name that needed military guidance and direction.

I found out in 2000 when a 1966 West Point Graduate named Ron Meier prepared an Excel spreadsheet of all the West Point Graduates who were killed in action in Vietnam that I found out that you were on the list.

Captain Vesa Juhani Alakulppi
Army of the United States
23 April 1941 - 14 May 1968
Seattle, WA
Panel 60E Line 007

Sadly, your loss is painful to all who knew and respected you. You will not be forgotten.

Sincerely, John Strgar

"Go with God Sir"

16 May 2004

Anther year has passed and I sadly feel the loss of a fine American Army Officer of Finnish ancestry whom I had known back in 1964 66. Had he lived he would be 63 years young. He probably would have done exceptionally well as a career Officer and my guess retired as a two or three star general. He was a good man and honorable man. Go with God Sir.

From a member of his Platoon,
John Strgar

Vesa Juhani Alakulppi was born in Rovaniemi, Finland, on April 23, 1941, to Olavi and Eevi Alakulppi, during the Russo-Finnish war. Vesa's father was a first lieutenant in the Finnish Army, and Vesa often proudly spoke of his father's exploits while fighting the Russian Army to a standstill. For his bravery, Olavi Alakulppi was awarded Finland's highest honor, the Mannerheim-risti. After a heroic fight however, the overwhelming might of the Soviet Union proved too much for Finland's small army and the war ended in 1944. Vesa's son Kurt recalled, "After the conflict was over, my grandfather was still wanted by the Russian military. In 1945, he escaped on skis to Sweden, followed by his family, and after a brief stay, he arranged for his entrance into the United States through the U.S. Consulate in Sweden." Olavi Alakulppi was soon commissioned in the U.S. Army, and Vesa, along with his sister Maija, had a typical "Army brat" childhood living in Virginia, Colorado, Germany, and Kansas.

Vesa began high school in Germany, attending the Nuremburg Dependent School, before transferring to Mainz where he met Sharon, his future wife. He finished high school in Junction City, Kansas. Vesa was an honor student, ranking fourth in his class of 113 students, with a grade point average of 3.68. Vesa also excelled in athletics, lettering twice in football in Germany, and playing on the Junction City basketball team that won the Central Kansas Conference championship. In March, 1958, Vesa competed for, and won a presidential appointment to the United States Military Academy. When a local reporter asked Vesa about his aspirations for the future, he replied, "I have looked forward to an Army career all my life." On 7 July Vesa reported to the Man in the Red Sash in Old Central Area, and, after learning the rudiments of close order drill, he and his classmates were marched to Trophy Point and sworn in as New Cadets in the Class of 1963.

Vesa loved West Point, and he thrived in the demanding environment. A classmate recalled, "he was a quiet, honorable, 'top drawer' person. He really had a good mind and while he wouldn't normally admit it in public, he studied pretty hard to make sure that he was always prepared for class." Contract bridge was one Vesa's passions. A K2 classmate reminisced about the time Vesa and three others were caught playing bridge in the sinks after taps. "As I remember, they successfully b'ached their DR because playing cards in the sinks was not expressly forbidden in the regs. I think that was changed the next day." One of Vesa's roommates reflected upon his love for handball: "He was a fierce competitor, and he was pretty washed out when he returned to our room indicating that, win or lose, he had given it 100%. That's the way he approached everything. If it was worth doing it was worth a 100% effort." Vesa often tutored classmates who were having academic problems. One classmate wrote, "I distinctly remember how he helped me prepare for the final exam in Mechanics when I got turned out. So, in no small measure, I owe him big for the chance to complete my degree." Vesa's academic perseverance was rewarded his first class year when he made the Dean's List, and became a star man.

Graduation day finally arrived and Vesa and his classmates were commissioned in the field house on 5 June, 1963. He chose Armor, and after jump school at Fort Benning, the new second lieutenant reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky for the Armor Officer Basic Course. Then it was off to Bamberg, Germany where he served as A Company Commander, 3/35th Armor. In April, 1966, Vesa and Sharon were married. A classmate remembers, "those times we truly enjoyed being with Vesa and Sharon, having the fun of going out together, and taking the outings and small trips out in the German towns." In 1967, Vesa received orders for Vietnam, with a stop enroute at the Jungle Warfare School in Panama.

Upon arriving in Vietnam, Captain Vesa Alakulppi was assigned to the 2/3 Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. He was initially the battalion S2, but he volunteered to be a rifle company commander, and was given "C" Company. On 14 May, 1968, Vesa's company was attacked by a superior force, and, after a furious battle, he was killed in action. A fellow company commander provided this account of the battle:

Captain Alakulppi, on losing communication with his strong point and receiving the report of enemy penetration from other bunkers, left his command post to tighten the remaining defenses and organize a counterattack. He went to the adjacent positions of the danger point, issued the orders to shift fires in order to contain the penetration, then started a personal reconnaissance of the situation. As he moved to a vantage point among the trees and irrigation ditches of the orchard he was ambushed and killed.
On May 28, 1968, Vesa Juhani Alakulppi was buried at the Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle, WA. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.

From West Point's "Family and Classmates"

04 May 2002

A final salute to a fine American
and my West Point Classmate.
From a Vietnam veteran,

Ramon M. Ong
Brigadier General (Ret)
Armed Forces of the Philippines
USMA Class of 1963  


Captain Vesa J. Alakulppi,

May 14th of 2002 will mark the 34th anniversary of your death in Vietnam. The many men who served under your leadership salute you for your courage, strength, and compassion. You will not be forgotten.

Sgt. J. Strgar
U.S. Army
4the Armored Div. Bamberg, Germany 1963-1966
11 S.F. Gp. Abn., U.S. Army Reserves, Tampa, Florida 1967-1969
810 Military Police, U.S. Army Reserves, Tampa, Florida 1969-1973

28 May 2002

Vesa Alakulppi - My big brother

by Maija Alakulppi Harrington

Vesa Alakulppe was not only a good and courageous man, but also a wonderful big brother. From the time Vesa was 7 years old and I was 3, I remember him taking care of me. Wherever he went, so did I: "She's just my kid sister". For example, Vesa spent many hours playing pool with me at the Army recreational center before I could even reach over the pool table. (Yes, he won every game.) He also took me along on his paper route, where my bedraggled little presence was particularly helpful on collection days, even though my wildly inaccurate paper throws were not well appreciated.

Here are a few more highlights that Vesa probably never shared with his adult friends:

  • When Vesa was 10 years old and our parents were off at some military function, Vesa displayed great initiative by combing all our father's pants' pockets and finding 3 dimes. Leaving an I.O.U. for 30 cents, he told me to get my bike and we rode 5 miles to the town movie theater to see LASSIE COME HOME. The show kept repeating itself so we stayed for the entire day's showings, until our frantic parents spotted our bikes outside the theater at around 11 PM. But wow, that was a great show, especially because I believed that the movie was a real event, currently happening in front of our eyes. This was still the pre-TV era, at least for our family. During future horror shows, Vesa was able to convince me that the movies were not real. (Otherwise he would have had to miss the movies.)
  • As we got older, Vesa continued to be responsible for the kid sister, even on many of his movie dates. His girl friends generally did not appreciate my presence, with the notable exception of his best high school sweetheart and future wife, Sharon.
  • Later, when I was a teenager, it was Vesa who went out to buy me a tube of Clearasil and taught me what it was and how to use it. He apparently had learned from his buddies, years before, but it was great news for me. (Our parents of the "old country" didn't know of such cosmetic miracles.)
  • At Plebe Christmas, when Vesa's 9th grade kid sister (with my 5th grade figure) wanted to take part in the dancing, he got a friend to dance with me as though I were the most glamorous girl of the evening.
Those are but a few fond memories to let you know that Vesa was pretty great even when he was a kid. I've always wished that everyone could have a big brother like Vesa.

From his loving sister,
Maija Alakulppi Harrington

23 Apr 2003

My name is Ted Brostrom and I went to Nurnberg American High School with Vesa. What follows is a letter I sent to Vesa's younger sister Maija:

Dear Maija,

I just stumbled onto the web site in which I found your testimonial concerning your older brother - Vesa. I joined "Classmates" and have been attempting to correspond with my Nurnberg American High School friends. In the rolls of Nurnberg American High School it listed Vesa as having been killed in action in Vietnam. Let me tell you of my experiences concerning Vesa.

Vesa and I played various sports together at Nurnberg American High School. I attended Nurnberg from 1955 through 1958. My family was stationed in Bamberg, Germany so I lived in the dormitory at Nurnberg. I would often see Vesa out walking his dog early in the morning. He was a caring person and really loved his dog. I remember him as a true gentleman (even in high school) and a very good athlete. I never knew, however, his family's background in Finland and Sweden (my grandfather is from Goteberg, Sweden) as he never talked about his family or his background. He was sort of a quiet type person who had the utmost respect of his friends and classmates both in class and on the playing field.

I personally thought the world of Vesa and I want to convey to you and the remainder of his family my condolences for his loss in Vietnam even though his death occured many years ago. In my opinion, it is never too late to express feelings regarding a loss such as occured with Vesa. I commanded an Artillery battery in Vietnam in 1969 and had my moments but nothing like Vesa went through.

God bless you, his wife and all the members of Vesa's family. A true patriot and great American - - - I miss Vesa also.

Regards, Ted Brostrom
Nurnberg American High School Class of 1958
Phone: 256.774.1073
Fax: 256.774.1100

22 Jun 2006

For my dear friend, Maija,
in memory of her brother Vesa.

Maija and Vesa came to Junction City, Kansas, as "Army brats" when their father was stationed at Fort Riley as an officer in "The Big Red One." I only knew Vesa as Maija's older brother, and a member of the Junction City High School basketball team. If my memory serves me right, he was a key member of the team. Maija was in my class at school and we became good friends.

As is the rule with most Army families, they only stay in one place for three years, so Maija's family was transferred after our junior year in high school. But Maija and I stayed in touch and I was delighted when she returned to Kansas to begin her college studies at Kansas State University in Manhattan. She eventually moved on, and actually joined the military herself to get her training as a nurse.

We always kept in touch and it was a sad day when she informed me of Vesa's death in Vietnam. Being born and raised in a military town you grow up with a strong sense of pride and patriotism ... and a great appreciation for those who serve. Vesa gave the ultimate sacrifice, and though he is greatly missed by family and friends, he died doing what he believed in. God Speed, Vesa. You will always be remembered with love and appreciation.

From a friend of his sister, Maija,
Barbara Chaney Hartman
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

01 Aug 2006

Dear Maija:

I served in Vietnam with your brother and at one point I commanded "B" Company, 2/3 Infantry.

Al and I were friendly competitors; he graduated from West Point in 1963, I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1964, but we were friends nonetheless and I enjoyed his sardonic humor a lot. Most of all I respected his professionalism. This was one guy who could be counted on when things got rough. I know. Had he lived, I have no doubt he would have risen to the highest ranks in the Army. He was that good.

I remember the night he died as if it were yesterday, an ugly raining night. The radio traffic was intense as everyone, it seems, got hit with VC/NVA fire.

Al's company got hit the worst, I think. He died running from bunker to bunker pulling men out of safe holes in the mud to go up on the line to secure the perimeter for the safety of everyone. Why he only got the Silver Star for his heroism that night mystifies me to this day.

He must have known then that his actions were not only vital to the survival of his company but that the chances of his surviving were small. Nonetheless he pressed on and today, there are, undoubtedly, many people and their descendants who literally owes their lives to Al.

For some reason - perhaps, only to save my sanity - my memories of Vietnam are truncated. But of all the people I remember clearly, Al is a standout - as much to me in death as he was in life.

From a friend,
Michael Kevin Murphy

A Note from The Virtual Wall

C Company, 2/3rd Infantry, lost six men on 14 May 1968 when FSB HUN was subjected to a night assault during a driving rain:
  • CPT Vesa J. Alakulppi, Seattle, WA (Silver Star)
  • SP4 James J. Kline, Philadelphia, PA (Dist Svc Cross)
  • SP4 James R. Ringel, Toledo, OH
  • PFC Robert D. Murphy, New York, NY
  • PFC James F. Turney, Pinnacle, NC
  • PFC William H. Zeigler, Washington, DC

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his sister,
Maija Alakulppi Harrington

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index A
WA State Index . Panel 60E